Name: Flip Shuffstall
County of Residence: Allegheny County, formerly Venango County. Clarion County. United Kingdom, Liverpool.
How do you describe your identity? Cis Male—Pansexual—Queer
Please describe your coming out experience. Where did you find support? What challenges did you face? Imagine if Dharma and Greg had kids. My maternal side—liberal—loving and accepting. Paternal side—right-wing-Christian—homophobic—rich.
Some summers I would spend on the farm—clothing optional—Grateful Dead would always be playing. Other summers I would spend traveling—church on Sundays—healthy “young man activities”.
My parents moved to a rural area so my dad could work at the university. While my home life was good, I was tormented relentlessly in school. My mother passed away in 2004. I was 16. She was my protector. The one I could vent to when I was being bullied. Shortly after her death I was accepted to study abroad. I completed my GCSEs in the UK. Studying abroad helped me solidify my confidence.
How would you describe yourself NOW in terms of “being out”? I’m angry. I wish “coming out” didn’t exist. I wish we could teach our children that sexuality is a spectrum and there should be NO shame attached to it.
Tell me about the first LGBTQ person whom you met. What impact did they have on your life? An uncle on my maternal side. He was beaten to near disfigurement in a hate crime. It was the 90s. I was a young kid. My dad wanted to keep it from me when I asked why my mom was crying. She had a fit. She told me the gory details through sobs. I was terrified. I wanted justice.
Fast forward—I studied law. I was a paralegal intern for a year until I decided I wasn’t emotionally stable for a career in law.
Past or present, favorite LGBTQ character or creator in television, film or literature? Please tell us why. Audre Lorde for obvious reasons.
How do you stay informed about LGBTQ issues? Reading. Discussion.
Describe your geographical community. I’m still afraid to hold hands with my partner in public here in Pittsburgh. I’m sure we all know the fear when someone screams from a passing car window “faggot”. I’m 32 and I’m finding it harder and harder to muster courage to be myself.
Describe your local or regional LGBTQ community. Coming from rural, blue collar regions, the local LGBTQ community still holds on to some “not-so-progressive” views, traditions, habits. The amount of blatant racism/classism is disgusting. We need to work on that.
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Have you ever experienced discrimination based on your identity? Specifically, in a job setting, when applying for housing or while in public. In college, a professor had issues with a case study I chose. (Lawrence v. Texas) He admitted “homos” made him uncomfortable. I worked in restaurants through college, I was sexually harassed on many occasions. If I a quarter for every time I was asked if I “took it up the butt”…
It STILL happens to this day. I usually threaten with legal counsel and they cower away.
Have you experienced microagressions based on your identity? Think everyday indignities & slights that you experience, but would not characterize as discrimination. Please describe in your own words. When I’m invited to attend social gatherings, the host usually assumes I’m going to bring something “fabulous”.
It’s assumed I know everything there is to know about fashion and art. It’s annoying. Sometimes members of the LGBTQ community do this. Particularly older lesbians and gay men.
Tell us about your access to health care in Western PA. Has it been LGBTQ competent (or not?) I don’t have healthcare. Healthcare is HUMAN RIGHT. For fucks sake.
Are there issues impacting your LGBTQ neighbors that aren’t visible or part of the local dialogue? Racism. Classism.
What would you like to see elected officials do to improve life for LGBTQ Pennsylvanians? Free motherfucking healthcare. Free.
Please share a lived experience, anecdote or fact about life as an LGBTQ person in your community. When I feel like jumping off of one the many bridges, I remember the older generation that fought and died for my rights. There is always hope. There is always a bright side.
Beyond discrimination, what other barriers create challenges for your LGBTQ neighbors? Access to free healthcare…
What LGBTQ friendly resources are available for your neighbors? Persad. Proud Haven.
What is your greatest fear for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That classism and racism will continue to deteriorate the community.
What is your greatest hope for the LGBTQ community in Western Pennsylvania? That they can one day see the truth—we’re all “ants” on a tiny rock flying through space—nothing matters—so be kind and help one another.
What pieces of local or regional LGBTQ history would you like to preserve and why? History can be preserved through the written word. It can be memorialized without needing physical “pieces”.
I’ve always liked the stories the older generations tell me. How they used to socialize in groups without risking backlash from local authorities. The codes they would use. The resilience the older generation had then is humbling.
What can allies do to support your LGBTQ community? Fight for free healthcare.
How can gay men and lesbians support the bisexual, transgender and queer members of our community?
What motivated you to take part in this project? By remembering how it felt to be discriminated against or judged for just existing. Sexuality and gender is on a sliding scale, a spectrum. Labels aren’t needed sometimes and that’s ok.
Finally, what question should I have asked? Please also share your answer. These questions are all deeply affecting. Great job!
Thank you, Flip.
Read the entire AMPLIFY LGBTQ Q&A archive.
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AMPLIFY LGBTQ is a series of blog posts designed to give a “signal boost” to the voices of our LGBTQ neighbors throughout Western Pennsylvania. These are glimpses in to the lived experiences of LGBTQ people in Western Pennsylvania as told in their own voices.